As any cat owner knows, felines are the most regal of all species. Even digging through the litter box, the mangiest cat challenges the most-buttoned-up dog. And so it’s no surprise that, while a dog font looks like a droolier Comic Sans, this new cat font—developed by the direct-to-consumer cat food brand Smalls in collaboration with Olso type foundry Good Type—is speaking its own, subtle, secondary language: the coiffed language of cats.
In case a cat font sounds silly, know that this project was taken with the utmost seriousness, to be used as an anchor of the Smalls brand everywhere from the website to packaging to a cat zine called Small Talk. “Cats are actually incredibly meaningful icons to draw inspiration from,” says Miles Barretto, lead designer at Smalls. “Today, cats are too often associated with social memes. There is a deep and rich history of the celebration and reverence of felines in many cultures—take Maneki-neko in Japan or the goddess Bastet in ancient Egypt as but two examples.”
Smalls’s font uses Adieu as a base (also designed by Good Type), then translates the social cues of a cat’s tail atop the letterforms. “When a cat expresses interest, they form a slight hook at the tip of their tail. We applied this in the form of hooked tips to the ‘U’ and ‘E’ that break out of the ascender and descender of the characters,” says Barretto. “When a cat expresses pleasure, the tail quivers. You can see in ‘M’ and ‘O’ there is a similar state of playfulness.” (Given that the font was created as part of the Smalls brand, the team opted not to include the tightly curved, hair-on-end cat tail that signals fear and anger.)
Overall, I’d argue the font has an almost subconscious cue to it, evoking the same enigmatic approachability and playfulness of a happy cat. Of course, if you prefer the indiscriminate, sloppy joy of a dog, well, there’s always Curlz.